Update October 14th: Charge downgraded from felony hate crime to misdemeanor harassment. Details HERE
James Curtis, a 26-year employee with the Department of Public Works (DPW) in Niagara Falls, New York who is accused of posting a "whites only" sign above a public works drinking fountain on August 13th, 2008 wasn't trying to make a racial statement, his lawyer said today. "Mr. Curtis didn't mean to hurt anyone's feelings. He is definitely not a bigot," attorney Harvey F. Siegel told The Buffalo News on Tuesday September 2nd, 2008, following his client's arraignment in City Court. "Of course [he] didn't mean for it to go this far."
The 52-year-old Curtis pleaded not guilty to second-degree aggravated harassment, which normally is a misdemeanor. But city police, who filed the charges Friday August 29th, categorized the charge as a racially motivated hate crime, which bumps up the charge to a Class E felony.
Curtis entered the courtroom surrounded by the media, and wearing dark glasses and a Navy blue baseball hat. A preliminary hearing on the charge was scheduled for October 14th and his $500 bail was continued.
Curtis is accused of taping a homemade "Whites Only Water Fountain" sign on a water fountain located within the DPW garage in Niagara Falls. The sign was found and turned over to authorities. After a weeklong investigation by city investigators, the State Attorney General's office and the State Police crime lab, including a handwriting analyis, Curtis was confronted, at which time he owned up to it, claiming it was a joke. Read previous post for more details.
After the court appearance, Siegel said Curtis has been receiving support from members of the African-American community, including family and friends, although a black man nearby who saw the media spectacle exclaimed, "I hope he's fired."
Afternote: The Niagara Gazette chose to address this issue again on September 1st. Here's the applicable excerpt from their story:
The City of Niagara Falls is once again gaining some unwelcome notoriety thanks to a racially charged incident at the city’s Department of Public Works garage.
Web sites operated by white supremacist groups are posting press reports and fielding comments from bloggers about James Curtis, the 52-year-old city employee who is accused of posting a “whites only” sign near a drinking fountain at the DPW garage on Aug. 13.
The incident has been picked up by several sites supported by white power groups, including White Reference, a blog devoted to “issues of interest to the white nationalist community,” and Stormfront.org, an Internet forum founded by former Klu Klux Klan member and white nationalist Don Black.
“This is why these things have to be taken very seriously,” said Mayor Paul Dyster. “They have consequences in the real world.”
Wrong, Mayor Dyster. Niagara Falls is gaining notoriety because you are using your corrupt legal system to dump all over a productive citizen of your community because he posted a silly sign on a water fountain. Thirty years ago, the sign would have been tossed into the trash can. The police state you're running in your gulag is causing you notoriety. White Reference and Stormfront merely exposed it - and you're embarassed. [Ed. Note: It also got written up on the Vanguard News Network Forum, too.]
And Mr. Mayor, how about explaining to your constituents how you justify spending THEIR tax dollars on having three freaking state agencies investigate this. Do you consider this a wise use of tax dollars?
And while we're at it, thirty years ago, I visited Niagara Falls. The Canadian side - clean, well-kept, orderly. The American side - a freaking dump. Have you cleaned up your side of the Falls, Mayor, or are you more concerned about political correctness?
You want to do the right thing, Mayor? Drop the charges, suspend this guy for a couple of weeks to throw your local kaffirs a bone, and then let him get back to work. He's learned his lesson by now.